Bülent Şık was an academic and Technical Assistant Director of the Food Safety and Agricultural Research Center at Akdeniz University. The research centre is a centre established to work with toxic chemical substances in foods, water and the environment and to support scientific studies on this subject. Bülent Şık worked at the center from 2010 onwards. From 2011 to 2016 the center worked on a project titled “The Evaluation of Environmental Factors and Their Impacts on Health in Kocaeli, Antalya, Tekirdağ, Edirne and Kırklareli Provinces”, led by the Ministry of Health. An aim of the project was to determine whether there had been conditions posing a threat to public health. The project consisted of 16 sub-projects, such as preliminary diagnosis of cancer, exposure to heavy metals and trace elements, environmental pollutants, pollutants in certain waterways, soil, food and air, and preventive healthcare. Bülent Şık took part in the project from the beginning. Throughout 2015, he worked on the assessment of data and project results, and also participated in a general evaluation meeting in December 2015.
Bülent Şık was also a signatory of the 2016 Academics for Peace petition “We will not be party to this crime”. His assignment at the center was not extended in January 2016, and soon after he was dismissed from all the research projects in which he participated as an executive and as a researcher, including the project mentioned above. His employment as an academic was terminated pursuant to an emergency decree on November 22, 2016.
The results from the project were not published by the Ministry of Health after the evaluation at the end of 2015. As he had participated in the project and also the evaluation, Bülent Şık had knowledge about the information. He had also made a copy of the analysis reports from his office computer, just to have as a backup.
One month after he had been fired, his younger brother, investigative journalist Ahmet Şık, was taken into custody, along with 17 other colleagues and executives of the newspaper Cumhuriyet.
After Bülent Şık understood that the results of the research were not going to be shared with the public, he started to analyse the material he had downloaded from his office computer. He shared the research results in a series of articles in the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet and on Bianet (an online media platform with a focus on human rights). The articles were published in Cumhuriyet newspaper from 16 to 19 April 2018.
Already on 17 April 2018, the Ministry of Health made a criminal complaint, and on 16 July 2018 the indictment against Bülent Şık was issued.
The first hearing was held on 7 February 2018. For this hearing, he had prepared a written defence statement, focusing on the reasons why he as an academic and researcher had an obligation to publish the important information that the Ministry did not publish.
After the first hearing, the Court asked the Ministry of Health to clarify any legal basis for a ban on publishing the information. The files of the case were also handed to an expert, to inspect whether the report was published by anyone other than Bülent Şık.
The second hearing was held on 30 May 2019. In this hearing the Ministry of Health answered the question from the first hearing, and stated that there was no specific legislation on keeping the information secret. His duties were in line with his contract as a researcher. Bülent Şık was given time to prepare his final statements.
The third hearing was held on 26 September 2019. Bülent Şık was acquitted of securing prohibited information (TPC 334) and of disclosing prohibited information (TPC 336). He was however sentenced for violation of the disclosure of confidential information in respect of a duty (TPC 258), and was sentenced to one year and three months in prison. The execution of the prison sentence was not suspended, as he had not shown any remorse about the crime he had allegedly committed.
He appealed this sentence to Istanbul Regional Court of Appeal, and on 29 April 2021 Bülent Şık was acquitted also for this remaining part of the case. The Court stated that his research could not be classified a confidential document or secret. And according to the Court, the Ministry of Health should have revealed the information for the benefit of the public themselves. The prosecutor of the Istanbul Regional Court of Appeal objected to the verdict of the Istanbul Regional Court of Appeal and applied to the Supreme Court. The prosecutor’s claimed that the allegation that the acquittal was unlawful. Additionally the Ministry of Health objected to the decision too. The case file will be examined by the Supreme Court and it is still open.